Gordon Robinson: If Paula could just get over herself
When asked for the most important life lesson I've ever learned, I always answer, "Nothing is as it appears."
For example, it appears the DPP has seen the light now brightly shining as a result of a process beginning with her legally weak ruling in the matter of the former Hanover mayor's alleged use of her public office to benefit family members, but I doubt it. Obviously, someone she respects has convinced her the ruling was legally baseless but:
(a) it has taken too long for her to recognise and address at least one of the many glaring errors in her opinion; and
(b) in the interim, she has poured too much scorn, too publicly on too many critics, including the contractor general.
So, it's unlikely this volte-face suggests she has learned anything from the experience about how to conduct a public office. Even when the contractor general, in complete frustration at the unnecessary obstacles to his conduct of his public duty, retreated to his last resort, namely, a lawsuit against another public officer, she publicly scoffed at his suit, dismissing it as a waste of time.
With snout pointed steadfastly to the Heavens, after trotting out her standard diatribe regarding the constitutional protection and superiority of "the DPP", she pontificated, "The action of the contractor general in going to court to overturn her decision not to press charges against Haughton ... has very little chance of succeeding." ('DPP ready to buck Office of the Contractor General', Gleaner, June 30, 2015). Was that necessary?
Now, on the advice of learned QC and the chief parliamentary counsel, she has reversed herself. But, has she seen the light? There's no obvious sign she has. The only light I expect her to continue to see clearly is one coming from an approaching camera. Let's face it: In what could easily be mistaken for a Charlotte Bronte romance novel about unrequited love, this DPP appears never to have seen a camera she didn't like.
You walked into the party
like you were walking on to a yacht;
your hat strategically dipped below one eye.
Your scarf, it was apricot
You had one eye in the mirror
as you watched yourself gavotte
and all the guys dreamed that they'd be your partner
They'd be your partner,
and ... ."
For those anxiously awaiting another "I told you so!" column, this isn't it. To begin with, the contractor general, in a lengthy press release, has already repeated enough I-told-you-sos to last her a lifetime. The DPP interpreted his press release as a personal attack. She should know, having herself personally attacked the contractor general by repeatedly disparaging his legal expertise in this matter, ignoring his pleas for reconsideration, and publicly belittling his lawsuit.
No, this is all about how this DPP conducts the affairs of a critical public office and what she can do, however belatedly, to change course. She exposed an unfitting philosophy, in my opinion, in her public response to press queries about her self-reversal by giving a football-type scorecard of her wins and losses in judicial review proceedings against her office (2-all).
The problem with the DPP's office (NOT invented by the current incumbent) is that it's apparently perceived by occupants as a conviction-winning machine. Convictions are checked off like notches on cowboy's guns. Not-guilty verdicts are considered losses.
Readers should take a closer look at this latest fiasco. Remember the Vaz-Bicknell traffic ticket case that escalated into charges of attempted bribery, corruption and perversion of justice? When the charges were publicised, Daryl Vaz told all and sundry that the charges against him were frivolous because he'd obtained the commissioner's permission before taking any step. This, he proclaimed (correctly, in my opinion), gave him an unanswerable defence to any criminal charge.
When the matter came up for mention, Young Crown Counsel assigned the case asked for an adjournment as he was awaiting a statement from the commissioner. This was Prosecution 101 because, having notice of an accused's defence, Young Crown Counsel was taking steps to plug any hole in the prosecution's case threatened by such a defence.
This set off fireworks, the likes of which Disney World on July 4 would be proud. The commissioner first said Young Crown Counsel had NOT asked him for any statement. This was factual, but not the whole truth. Young Crown Counsel never asserted he'd asked for a statement, only that he was waiting on one. My sources inside the force confirmed the request was made by Justin Felice. When confronted with this on national TV, the commissioner retreated into asserting no junior officer could tell him to give any statement and he wasn't giving one. Why? The charges were laid by HIS police force. He was a material witness in the view of the lead prosecutor assigned to the case.
Young Crown Counsel was summarily relieved of conduct of the case. The new prosecutor announced a statement from the commissioner wouldn't be sought. Both defendants were eventually freed. Young Crown Counsel soon left the DPP's office and was appointed contractor general since when he has struggled to convince the DPP to prosecute many alleged breaches of the Contractor General's Act.
Things that make you go, "Hmmmmmmmmm ... ."
The DPP's role isn't to secure convictions. It's to put cases with prima facie proof of criminality before the courts for a jury to decide guilt or innocence. The DPP is a minister of justice and must act on our behalf to seek justice. DPPs need not protect personal win-loss records, nor should they appear to favour any branch of the legal or political system over ordinary citizens.
This DPP needs to take a long, hard look in the mirror and change her ways while there's still time for her to construct a praiseworthy personal legacy, which is the sole personal erection that should concern her. Her personal legacy, which she may misunderstand to be a win-loss count, is obviously important to her because every third word she utters is 'I'.
You're so vain, you probably think this song is about you.
You're so vain, I'll bet you think this song is about you.
Don't you? Don't you?"
In a December 2 email covering a November 26 release allegedly from the Office of the DPP:
"Please see attached press release pertaining to MY revised decision on the contractor general's report on former mayor of Hanover ... Ms Shernet Haughton. I was unable to dispatch this last week ... due to the office email being out of service ... . Though I indicated in several media MY revised position on this matter, I nonetheless, as is MY custom in matters of this nature, now make it available as a public service ... ."
There are six Is or mys in three sentences.
What's the point?
No point failing to convict Kern despite turncoat evidence from an alleged co-conspirator. No point failing, on appeal, to hold Young Crown Counsel's conviction of 'Bungles'. No point travelling all the way to Lucea to personally conduct a simple wounding with intent prosecution (alleged spousal abuse) only to fail to convict.
No point failing to suspect a witness statement in a case against alleged Stone Crusher gang leader, Eldon Calvert, had been fabricated by Detective Sergeant Michael Serjue and then being unable to prevent Serjue from fleeing the island unsanctioned while Calvert was freed.
After all that, what's the point, following Jeremy Taylor's tireless work for months securing Vybz Kartel's conviction, showing up with smile permanently affixed for the benefit of passing cameras in order to bask in the "win"?
I've taken minor literary licence with the lyric of You're So Vain, an iconic pop song written in 1972 by folk singer/songwriter, Carly Simon, and Chun Keung Lam (recorded by Carly Simon). It's the most speculated about song as, for more than four decades, Carly refused to disclose the identity of its subject (obviously a former flame). Recently, Carly, now 70 and about to publish a memoir titled 'Boys in the Trees', relented and named movie star Warren Beatty as the culprit.
Jamaica is suffering from a crisis of corruption. Only media and the justice system stand between citizens and totalitarianism. The DPP must play a pivotal role and prosecute public servants without fear or favour when the facts demand it.
Inconsistent decisions to prosecute; public disagreements about tactics after charges are laid; unnecessarily antagonising any magistrate by forcing the personal expense and inconvenience of defending civil suits upon that public officer, is no way to conduct this most vital public office. Profiling can only take one so far. Performance is key.
Peace and love.
- Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.